This article was inspired after a talk with a 25 year old lady, who during one of our conversations expressed her frustration at how much pressure she felt from others, whom are constantly trying to mold her to fit the “status quo” for their age bracket. She constantly has to deal with the pressure of being told she needs to loosen up and expose more skin, put more makeup on and flirt more, that way she will get more ‘”likes” and more guys interested in her. Although I have her consent to write about this, for sake of privacy I will call her Emily.
The first time I met with Emily, she struck me as a woman who knows exactly what she wants in life but like many of us feels the pressure of society. She has a quiet yet restless aura about her. Her big green eyes, long brown hair, make up free skin paired with a few tattoos and a skateboarder attire give the impression of a very down to earth young lady who knows how not take life too seriously. Through our talks I have seen the depth of this young lady’s personality. Although she struggled with some subjects in school, she did try her best and excelled at other things such as mechanics. Her parents divorced at the age of 12 and despite the animosity between them, Emily maintains a respectful relationship with them both. Her parents divorced brought her relief, for as she said “the madness and pretending finally stopped”. Despite this, she couldn’t help feeling lost and started drinking quite a bit, all of that stopped when she turned 19th… “I don’t know how, one day I just woke up and thought, I am 19. I am tired of this shit” …that epiphany caused her to become more introspective about life. All her life she has had a hard time understanding why would anyone want to fit in and be like everyone else. She has taken care of her own needs since the age of 16 and got her apprenticeship sooner than even she expected. Emily, now 25 rans her own business and does well for herself. However, she finds it hard at times to deal with the constant pressure to become like “most girls”. Although she recognizes she is attractive and bright, it’s hard for her to make friends with her own gender, so much so she tends to shy away from interacting with them. This was the result of constant bullying while in school by girls who felt jealous of the attention Emily got by just being herself, without needing to work hard to impress anyone. Now 25, the bullying has stopped. Young men are always asking her out but she fears relationships which often cause her to decline. Her old school acquaintance needed a place to stay and Emily took her in. Unlike Emily this other young woman knows many people whom she likes to call “friends” and is constantly dating. She kept pressuring Emily to change and kept pointing out how young men “like women who pretty themselves up”.
One night Emily let her acquaintance convince her to “dress up”, did her makeup and went out to meet a couple of young men. Emily’s acquaintance kept repeating to her “if you want men to like you, you got to show more skin, laugh at their jokes and act like you are having the time of your life, try to be the life of the party”. Emily described that night as “torture” , in her words “I’ve never felt more like a fake than at that moment. I couldn’t recognize who that person was. Why do I have to give up who I am and pretend I am a dummy in order to be liked or desire?”
I asked Emily if she felt interested in the young men she met that night, she said to me “They weren’t so bad, but the whole thing felt so rehearsed you know?” We we went over the evening, it turns out Emily couldn’t take it, tired of having to pretend and not being able to simply express her opinions, she apologized and left. Her acquaintance although annoyed later on told her “I got the attention of both to myself but left with the cutest”. The interesting thing is this, after that night the other young woman never got a call back; on the other hand Emily got a call from one of them. She met him for coffee and explained how she acted that night wasn’t her or what she is into. She cut the meeting short and returned to her work. Interestingly enough that young man has not stopped texting her, trying to get to know the real Emily. His reaction has caused confusion within her. Her and the other young woman got in a big argument so Emily asked her to move out. Before leaving the other young woman gave Emily a piece of her mind, labeling her as “weirdo, stuck up and a loser”. I tried to explain to Emily how by paying close attention to the words, we see not just a contradiction in terms but also a reflection of how the other young woman feels about herself; she used words that more accurately describe how she feels about herself than about Emily’s personality. I am not going to go more into Emily’s talks with me; the above was an example or the ground for what I am about to write. Emily is a lovely and bright young woman who does not fit in “the status quo” but she shouldn’t have to. Just by having the strength to be who she is, she is giving others a different example which they may or may not wish to acknowledge but the option to “be different” is there.
There are so many people who fall prey to the nectar of mediocrity; those who are not capable of discerning what is real from appearances. I have absolutely nothing against anyone who from a healthy, clean and conscious place decides to live life in that way. In fact, from an evolutionary point of view such position makes a lot of sense. The problem arises when people who have adopted such gregarious attitude, more often than not, have not done so out of their own free will but due to the will of others or due to fear of not being accepted– as such they are incapable of wanting something different or incapable of accepting those who have chosen to live their lives in ways that promote true self expression, mental and spiritual growth.
I am human so I won’t deny such attitude bothers me because they point the finger at those whom are creative, those who are working hard towards turning their dreams into reality. They point the finger at the ingenious, the ones who do not use their traumas as an excuse for self destruction, the ones who are genuinely different, the innovative, the brave, and they say to them “You don’t fit in. You are not worth it. Your projects will not turn out because you do not know how to be part of a group. You are not congenial and tolerant enough” . Reality is they express themselves like that because no matter how much they deny it, they are aware they have sacrificed the best of them in exchange for false acceptance.
If you have been raised in an educated and liberal society, it is more likely that we have been raised with the same code “a liberal attitude with little touches of Judeo-Christian morality”, where one of the most repeated principles is “treat others as you wish to be treated”. I like that saying because it is based on a value that emits peaceful coexistence; respect. Therefore before writing this, I thought intensely on the words I was to use so as not to offend all the people who have made decisions different than mine. In thinking about this conundrum, I realized there is a fundamental difference between respecting an idea or lifestyle and sharing an idea or lifestyle. Just because I do not carry my life in the exact way you do, doesn’t mean I don’t respect your path; with that said, as much as I can respect the choices made by those who choose to self destruct or to contribute more illness to this world, I would be irresponsible and a liar if I were not to say those decisions seem unwise to me. Choosing to hurt oneself in exchange for acceptance is letting the trauma win.
Today I would like to write this article to stand up for all of those who embrace being different and who value self expression; those who are tired of being mixed with those who use the phrase “freedom of self expression” to excuse their denial, immaturity or self destructing behavior. This article is for all those people who know what it is to have been immature, to self destruct but who haven chosen to mature without killing their originality, without killing their idealism, without going to extremisms and who believe in trying to add more value to this world…keep doing it!
Most people don’t question why they choose what they choose and decide what they decide. As simplistic and utilitarian as it may sound; in other words stoic; people make their decisions in order to maximize their net satisfaction; this means they seek to maximize the difference between pleasure and pain. When people are not working on their self development, often their primal instincts leads them to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Even when talking about individuals who know perfectly how to avoid any “temptation” the same equation can be applied. Either they are suppressing which will sooner or later manifest in worst ways (not a good thing. Choices should not ne made out of duty or fear) or they are making a conscious choice to understand that the net satisfaction of avoiding self destructing behavior is higher than the net satisfaction they would get by not avoiding it (choice based on introspection); it all depends on what side of the fence they are, denial or consciousness.
Just about everything is based on neuro-associations; emotion decides and reason justifies. Neuro-associations can be positive or negative. If you have a positive neuro-association to playing soccer, it means the total pleasure it causes you to play is greater than the pain it would cause you not to play. I gave this example to Emily and we explore things more by asking her “how much pleasure would you get from not being yourself? What would it do for you?” /“If you acted like most women who only want external attention, then you would get more likes, numbers, dates… but how happy would that make you?/ How long do you think you can last not being true to yourself? /What will it feel like when Emily gets home and has to face her own reality? …Will you then get more pleasure or more pain?”
I explained to Emily how the equation of net satisfaction is counterintuitive, that is to say our instincts will want to incur only pleasure and avoid pain, believing by doing so they will maximize their net satisfaction. However, this is far from reality, seeking instant gratification and gratification through self destruction is the fastest way to suffering. People who are addicted to instant gratification and whom seek only and exclusively what is pleasurable and ironic, remind me of an experiment on Human Behavior which was conducted on rats: Rats were given a toy, a wheel so they may run, specifically designed to entertain and tire but never to help them. If you like metaphors instead, then let me give you another example: Imagine you are swimming in the ocean but are trapped by a whirlpool, over and over again you keep turning in the same place without realizing the sea is drowning you, that whirlpool is mediocrity.
Do you want to spend your whole life jumping from instant pleasure to instant pleasure? If so that’s ok, each one of us is free to do with life whatever one sees fit; however, do not pretend that jumping from instant pleasure to instant pleasure will maximize your net satisfaction; worst yet, don’t try to push others to do the same just because misery loves company. You may not want to change your life but let me explain how the equation actually works: The two events (pleasure/pain) are mutually connected yet exclusive–avoiding pain in a perpetual way decreases the marginal increase of each unit of pleasure and at the same time increases that of need. In other words, each time you will feel more and more empty, less satisfied and you will become more dependent on instant gratification; you become addicted to your drug of choice (be it alcohol, popularity, porn, Botox, likes, prostitution, false acceptance, etc.) That is the trap of instant self gratification, self destruction and self degradation.
To put Band-Aids on things never works because it doesn’t allow room to heal, nor will it increase your net satisfaction in the long term, for the more you give in to those things the more it will erode your self esteem, the more it will demand of you. If you are addicted to porn, the more you watch, the more and stronger types you will need before you get the high. If you are addicted to likes, the more your audience will demand in exchange until there is nothing left of you. If you are addicted to your “reputation” the more you will have to wear a mask to cover up your imperfections; so on and so forth, you get the idea.
For those who are being themselves or are working on themselves, the most dangerous of all are the type of psychological springs activated in your head, because while you are working diligently, there are those who are avoiding responsibility and trying to drag others to the same place. The whole thing can be very deceptive as results from both; the first group and the second; may seem practically identical but that is only during the first phases. If you don’t know why you do what you do, and you do not know how to work with your your mind, then chances are higher for them to trick you into giving up your path; they will tell you not make an effort, not to try. They will tell you they don’t understand why you work so much, why you focus on your self development, why you can’t just be like everyone else, or they will tell you they no longer recognize you and want the old person back; even if that old version of you was unhealthy and unhappy. They may try to alienate you, punish you in order for you to question what is best for your growth; that is why it’s important to look at your life and ask yourself “Is what they are telling me or asking of me in alignment with whom I am at my core?” /”Do I want to be the old version of myself?” /”Am I willing to give up my authenticity in order to please others?”
You don’t have to live life the same way as me or as anyone else, just make sure your life serves the best in you. Make sure your life is not asking you to not to think, not to question, not to grow. Make sure your life is not asking you to sacrifice the best in you for the mediocre in you. The most important thing is not to lose your real self in exchange to be part of the herd. You are not here to be like everyone else. If you want to embrace your uniqueness, you can’t be doing what everyone else is doing. In order to embrace your true self, you will need to be willing to give up almost everything (false conditioning) but don’t be afraid because the return is this: You get to live life in your terms, no matter how weird or different yourlife may be, it won’t be based on external approval; that’s the important part. You get to truly exercise free will; with all its gifts and its responsibilities. You get grow, you get to be you, without apologies or pretenses. They may label you, try to intimidate you, criticize you, tell you you are obsessed and mad, but let me give you a quote “the madness of the intelligent mind is different than the madness of the ignorant mind”. So embrace your madness, embrace your light and your shadow; heal it, transmute it and shine!